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Resistant Starches and Your Low-FODMAP Diet

Today’s guest post is by dietetic intern Sarah Skovran. Sarah, who lives on the coast of Maine with her husband and son, is a mid-life career changer, who previously worked as an elementary school teacher, and then as a certified personal trainer. Her interest in nutrition began as a personal trainer and developed as the mother of a child with food allergies; she wanted to help other parents in the same situation. She returned to school, earned another degree (in nutrition, this time) at University of Maine, and is now finishing up the supervised practice stage of her training, the last step before taking the registration exam to become a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN). 

Resistant Starches and Your Low-FODMAP Diet

by Sarah Skovran

If you’ve done much reading about nutrition and digestive health over the past couple of years, you may have come across the term “resistant starch”. Resistant starch has been touted as a weight loss aid and a potential cure-all. While it has been mentioned briefly on this blog in the past, let’s take a closer look. What are resistant starches, and how do they fit into your low-FODMAP diet?

Starches are long chains of glucose that typically get broken down and absorbed as glucose in the small intestine. Resistant starches are starches that don’t get broken down completely, so much of the starch instead passes through to the large intestine. It is this “resistance” to digestion that gives these starches their name. There are various reasons why resistant starches don’t get broken down. The starch might be inaccessible to digestive enzymes because it’s protected by the plant cell wall, like in legumes and grains, or because the type of starch doesn’t have enough exposed area, like in an underripe banana. Regardless of the reason, resistant starches resist digestion in the small intestine and pass along to the large intestine.

Potatoes aren't the only low-FODMAP source of resistant starch.

Potatoes aren't the only low-FODMAP source of resistant starch.

Once there, these starches are food for bacterial growth. Sound familiar? This is similar to one way poorly absorbed FODMAPs can contribute to unpleasant symptoms. So, at first it might seem like avoiding resistant starches is the way to go. However resistant starches are unlikely to cause the same problems as high-FODMAP foods because they are fermented more slowly. Though a few studies show that very high intakes of resistant starches (60 g or more) can cause some discomfort in some people, these are intakes you are unlikely to reach by eating a varied diet of healthful foods. Plus it looks like there might be some health reasons to consider including resistant starches in your diet.

Resistant starches are classified as a “prebiotic” because they act as food for beneficial bacteria. Fermentation of resistant starches releases short-chain fatty acids, which are used as energy by cells lining the colon and are therefore important for gut health. Some studies have even suggested that one short-chain fatty acid, butyrate, has an anti-tumor effect on colorectal cells. Other studies have shown that eating resistant starches could contribute to disease prevention by decreasing cholesterol and triglycerides, by lowering the postprandial glucose response (the rise in blood sugars after eating), and by decreasing insulin resistance and fat storage. Because they are incompletely digested, resistant starches provide only half the calories of other carbohydrates, causing some people to consider them a good food for reaching and maintaining a healthy weight.

Of course, sometimes resistant starches are found in foods that are also high FODMAP foods, such as whole wheat pasta, rye bread, and white beans; these would be inappropriate choices for those following low-FODMAP diets. Here are some good sources of resistant starch and their approximate resistant starch content. Portions are given to accurately represent the relative resistant starch content of each food; however, only those in boldface must be portion-controlled on the elimination phase of a low-FODMAP diet.

Uncooked oats seem to be the richest source of resistant starch from food. If you’re wondering how or why you would want to eat uncooked oats, here is a sweet recipe.

No-Bake Low-FODMAP Chocolate Chip Cookie Balls Recipe

When you need a quick cookie fix, this recipe fits the bill. These no-bake cookie balls have just over one portion of FODMAP foods and almost 2 grams of resistant starch each. They also pack a sweet, chocolatey, protein-filled punch!

Prep Time 10 minutes + 30 minute refrigeration

Total Time 40 minutes

Servings 12

Serving Size 1 ball (about 35 g)

Ingredients:

No-Bake Low-FODMAP Chocolate Chip Cookie Balls Recipe

No-Bake Low-FODMAP Chocolate Chip Cookie Balls Recipe

1-1/4 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup sunflower seed butter
1/4 cup brown rice syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup semi- sweet mini chocolate chips (about 3 ounces)

Preparation:

1. Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper.

2. In a medium bowl, mix together oats, nut butter, brown rice syrup, and vanilla.

3. Gently mix in chocolate chips.

4. Measure out 2-tablespoons of “dough” and roll into balls. It might help to wet your hands between each ball. Place the balls on the prepared baking sheet.

5. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

6. Enjoy immediately or place in an airtight container in the refrigerator to keep them moist.

Ingredient variations and Substitutions:

  • If you can tolerate fructose, honey can be used in place of brown rice syrup.
  • Peanut butter or almond butter can be used in place of sunflower seed butter.

Storage Tips:

These can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.

References

Definition of resistant starch - NCI Drug Dictionary. USDHHS National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute’s Website. https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-drug?CdrID=687429. Accessed February 28, 2017.

Maziarz MP, Preisendanz S, Juma S, Imrhan V, Prasad C, Vijayagopal P. Resistant starch lowers postprandial glucose and leptin in overweight adults consuming a moderate-to-high-fat diet: a randomized-controlled trial. Nutr J. 2017;6:14-23. DOI 10.1186/s12937-017-0235-8.

Bindels LB, Segura Munoz RR, Gomes-Neto LC, et al. Resistant starch can improve insulin sensitivity independently of the gut microbiota. Microbiome. 2017;5:12-27. DOI 10.1186/s40168-017-0230-5.

Murphy MM, Douglass JS, Birkett A. Resistant Starch Intakes in the United States. J Am Diet Assoc. 2008;108:67-78.

Barrett J. Dietary Fibre Series - Resistant Starch. http://fodmapmonash.blogspot.com/2016/11/dietary-fibre-series-resistant-starch.html. Updated November 14, 2016. Accessed February 28, 2017.

Higgins JA. Resistant starch: metabolic effects and potential health benefits. J AOAC Int. 2004; 87:761-8.

Sajilata MG, Singhal R, Kulkarni PR. Resistant Starch – A Review. Compr Rev Food Sci Food Saf. 2006; 5: 1-17. DOI: 10.1111/j.1541-4337.2006.tb00076.x.

Gropper SS, Smith JL. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism. 6th Ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning; 2013.

Moongngarm A. Chemical compositions and resistant starch content in starchy foods. Am J Agric Biol Sci. 2013; 8: 107-113. doi:10.3844/ajabssp.2013.107.113.

Lockyer S, Nugent AP. Health effects of resistant starch. Nutr Bull. 2017; 42: 10-41. DOI: 10.1111/nbu.12244.